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PM seeks sweeping reshuffle

Posted by arnon_k On October - 26 - 2012

Pre-censure debate rejig ‘to disconcert opposition’
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra confirmed yesterday she was seeking royal endorsement for a sweeping cabinet reshuffle _ a move seen as a bid to cushion the impact of the censure debate by the opposition at the end of the month.

A government source said the reshuffle would affect 23 cabinet seats and involve 14 new faces, including prominent politicians who are members of the so-called House No.111 _ the former executives of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai Party.

They include legal expert Pongthep Thepkanchana, who is expected to be appointed as first deputy prime minister to oversee legal affairs and to double as education minister.

Pongsak Raktapongpaisal is tipped for the post of energy minister while Varathep Rattanakorn is expected to become PM’s office minister. All of them are close aides of deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The source said the government is confident the reshuffle will provide a line-up of politicians with debating skills to counter the opposition.

Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom has been a target for the Democrat Party over the rice pledging scheme. But he is likely to keep his post thanks to his close ties with Yaowapa Wongsawat, Ms Yingluck’s elder sister.

Removal of Mr Boonsong from the cabinet could signal the end for the government’s rice pledging programme.

The source said Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Nattawut Saikuar, known for his oratory skills, would be appointed as deputy commerce minister to respond to the opposition on behalf of Mr Boonsong.

The government will be expected to explain to the red shirts why red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan has been excluded from the new cabinet list.

Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a political scientist at Sripatum University, told the Bangkok Post that the unexpected reshuffle ahead of the censure debate would throw the opposition off balance, forcing it to revise its debate plan.

Cabinet ministers such as Education Minister Suchart Thada-Thamrongvech, who is expected to be replaced by Mr Pongthep, were already in the opposition’s cross-hairs.

With his experience, Mr Pongthep should give the government reason to hope that he could better deal with any potential political problems that might take place.

“The new cabinet line-up will strengthen the government,” the source said. “The new cabinet members will help respond to criticism during the debate more efficiently.”

Ms Yingluck yesterday confirmed that a cabinet reshuffle list has been submitted to His Majesty the King for endorsement.

The reshuffle was intended to improve the cabinet’s efficiency and to fill the seat left vacant by Yongyuth Wichaidit who resigned from the posts of deputy prime minister and interior minister.

Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut has also asked to quit his ministerial post, Ms Yingluck said.

The prime minister dismissed suggestions that the cabinet changes were designed to protect cabinet ministers from opposition grilling during the censure debate.

Ms Yingluck said she was personally satisfied with the overall picture of the new cabinet, which would have more capable people with high levels of knowledge and abilities. She denied her elder brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was involved in the cabinet overhaul.

At parliament yesterday, government ministers and MPs from the ruling party were surprised by the unexpected changes.

A Pheu Thai Party source said Mr Jatuporn was not included in the new cabinet list because the red-shirt movement is given only a quota of one cabinet seat, which is now occupied by Mr Nattawut, another red-shirt co-leader.

The source said Pheu Thai bigwigs have agreed that it is not the right time to give Mr Jatuporn a ministerial post as this could invite resistance from the party’s critics who plan to hold political rallies against the government.

The source said Pheu Thai MP for Nan, Cholnan Srikaew, had been appointed to be deputy public health minister under the quota of Pheu Thai MPs from the North. The source said he has the backing of Ms Yaowapa, Mr Thaksin’s younger sister.

Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan, Worachai Hema, another red-shirt core member, said that red-shirt supporters wanted Mr Jatuporn to join the cabinet to help Mr Nattawut look after their interests.

Pheu Thai list-MP and red-shirt leader Viputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai said some red shirts were disappointed and unhappy that Mr Jatuporn was not part of the new cabinet line-up.

However, Mr Viputhalaeng said the relations between the Pheu Thai Party and the red-shirt movement remain intact.
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